Australia is a very expensive place to visit. Which is why, even after 50 years, there is so much of the country we have yet to explore.
Even with airfares, we can still do a three week trip to the UK for far less than three weeks in Western Australia and Northern Territory.
Australia can be expensive
It wasn’t until we started travelling in Europe that we realised just how expensive Australia must be for overseas tourists. Food is a fraction of the cost and accommodation can be so cheap. We stayed in a Chateau in France for the same price as a roadside motel in Australia. A week in a holiday rental in Switzerland was nearly a third the price that our nieghbours charge for their beach house.
So if you are making the investment to come and visit Australia, you certainly want to make sure you are stretching your holiday dollar as far as you can. It is possible to make some savings on your Australian holiday with a lot of research and a little local knowledge into some of the options available to you.
If money is no object and you are looking for five star accommodation and fine dining, this post probably isn’t for you. If you want to get out and see as much of Australia as you can within your budget, read on.
Check out our travel budget guides for other destinations
What it costs us to travel Australia
Our most recent road trip took us 3,000 kms through NSW, Victoria and South Australia for one week. We stayed two nights in motels and five nights in a caravan park cabin. We self catered some days, also enjoying meals in pubs, clubs and cafes. Our total costs were around $200 per day for two people :
Food and attractions $435
Total $1,355 for the week
We’ve provide some links through this post to help you to research your costs. We may earn a small commission on sales at no additional cost to our readers.
Accommodation Costs in Australia
Accommodation will be your biggest expense in Australia. The sky is really the limit, but if you are travelling on a budget, there are some cheaper options.
Prices will vary according to the season and you may need to book for a minimum of one week during peak holiday times. Bookings may only be accepted from Saturday to Saturday during these peak times. Larger city hotel chains may offer a “kids stay free” deal.
Money saving tip: Travel outside school holidays and peak times
Hotel, motel and caravan parks
- A mid range hotel in a central city area will cost around $200 per night for two, including breakfast.
- Staying a little out of the CBD you will find a comfortable motel for around $120 to $150 per night for two.
- Travelling in regional Australia, a reasonable motel should cost around $120 per night for two.
- A self catering holiday home is also a great value accommodation option if you are planning a longer stay. During the low season you should expect to pay $600 to $800 per week. This will skyrocket to $2000 per week during peak holiday season
- .Caravan parks offer not only powered sites for motorhomes and caravans, but also self contained cabins which provide comfortable budget accommodation. It is possible to find a studio cabin in a caravan park for $90 per night.
- Powered site at caravan park
- $ 40 per night low season
- $ 50 per night shoulder season
- $ 98 per night high season, minimum 7 day booking
- Ensuite cabin at caravan park
- $ 130 per night low season
- $ 150 per night shoulder season
- $ 225 per night high season, minimum 7 day booking
Free Camping in Australia
If touring with a motorhome or caravan, there are many free camp sites around regional Australia. Facilities are often basic and there will usually be a limit to the number of days you can camp. However we have come across some magnificent free camping sites during our own travels. Free camping outside these designated sites is usually strictly policed and can attract fines.
Cost of Transport in Australia
Australian cities have an extensive bus, rail, tram and light rail network. Most of these will offer a cheap “visitor’s pass” which is a economical way to travel around the city.
- Most cities and larger regional areas also operate Hop on Hop off tourist buses or trams. Some are free, but most are relatively cheap.
Travelling in regional Australia.
Travelling between the major cities and regional areas is where transport in Australia can be very costly. It is also another area where you can make some budget savings.
Hiring a car and driving is by far the cheapest, easiest and most convenient way to tour regional Australia. Outside the major regional areas, public transport is either very limited or non-existent. Timetables and routes can also be very limiting.
Flights between regional centres
Flights outside the major regions can be limited and can be quite costly. The smaller flights will often land at smaller airports, with limited public transport available.
However if time is a factor, then a flight can be a good option. Do your research thoroughly if booking a cheap flight. The airport may be a long way from where you want to be, with limited transport options. You may also have to pay extra for baggage and food, which can make a major carrier a better option. Cheaper flights are also renowned for being cancelled at the last minute.
Some indicative flights costs are:
Flight Sydney to Moruya 35 mins $ 150
Flight Moruya to Melbourne 1 hour $585
Sydney to Melbourne 1 hour 35 $325
Brisbane to Sydney 1 hour 30 $251
Perth to Sydney 5 hours 10 $660
Bus and coach travel
Buses and coaches run through most regional areas and can be a great budget travel option. However they can also be very limiting.
For example the Murrays coach listed below does pass through Bateman’s Bay (one hour north) and Narooma. However due to transport regulations, you must travel a certain number of stops on these coaches and it is not possible to catch a bus from Narooma to Bateman’s Bay. This makes coach travel only viable for longer distance trips.
Most towns do have a local bus service, however travel between neighbouring towns and villages or even to local attractions can be difficult without a car.
- Murrays coach Sydney to Canberra 3 hours 30 min $37pp
- Canberra to south coast 4 hours 30 mins $48pp
- Premier bus Sydney to south coast 6 hours 30 mins $58pp
- VLine Bus south coast to Melbourne 10 hours 40 min $58pp
Money saving tip: Discovery Pass provides unlimited travel on regional rail and coach links across NSW, Victoria Queensland and Canberra. Fares start at $232 per person for 14 days. This pass may not apply to private transport services.
Rail Transport in Australia.
Australia has an extensive rail transport system running between the major cities. However Rail Transport outside the major regional areas can be limited. The transport link above may help to give you an indication of services.
As an example, the train from Sydney to Melbourne takes 11 hours at a cost of $ 65pp. It may be possible to connect a rail and bus service to reach coastal and regional areas.
If you are looking for some luxury rail travel, the Indian Pacific takes a three day all-inclusive journey from Sydney to Perth. The Ghan takes a two night journey from Adelaide to Darwin. Both include off train excursions along the way, with prices starting from around $2,500 per person.
Driving In Australia
If you have the time, driving is going to be your cheapest travel option. It will also give you much more freedom to fully explore Australia.
- If staying in a city ,finding a hotel which offers free parking is the most economical option.
- Local parking stations will cost from $4 per hour
- Fuel in Australia is around $1.45 per litre. It costs around $70 to fill my small 4-cylinder vehicle. A full tank will take us between 500 to 600 kilometres, depending upon driving conditions. As an example, I would need two tanks of fuel to drive from Sydney to Melbourne or Sydney to Brisbane. This cost will vary depending upon your vehicle.
- Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have road tolls, which will cost around $30 for a three day pass.
Money saving tip: Save your grocery store receipts. Many of these have fuel discount vouchers at their associated service stations. The savings certainly add up.
Check out our guide to Driving in Australia
Eating out in Australia
This is one expense that really astounded us when we travelled to Europe. Food is so cheap in comparison to Australia. This is one area however where you can either blow the budget, or make some considerable cost savings.
When we are travelling in Australia, we usually self cater some meals, enjoying a pub or club dinner or lunch in a cafe.
- A reasonable restaurant will cost around $20 for an entree and $40 main course. A reasonable bottle of wine will start from around $25, bringing dinner for two to $150. At a “high-end” restaurant you could easily spend double this
- A meal at an ethnic restaurant or cafes will cost around $15 each for lunch and $25 for dinner each. Many of these will be BYO (bring your own wine), or you can expect to pay around $8 for a glass of wine or schooner of beer
- Most cities have markets and food stalls where you can grab a quick takeaway for around $8. These are also the cheapest place to buy local produce if you want to self-cater.
- A “counter meal” at a pub or club will be around $25 to $30 for a main. A glass of wine or schooner of beer will be around $6. You can get a reasonably good meal for around $60 for two people.
Below we’ve listed the cost of some basic items to give you an idea of what to budget for food and drink. These prices can vary greatly, particularly in regional and remote Australia.
Cost of food and drink in Australia
- Counter meal at a pub or club for two people $60
- Cost of meal in a good restaurant $35 main $20 entree
- Cafe Breakfast for two $25
- Coffee and cake at a cafe for two $20
- Meat pie from a bakery $5
- Take away coffee $3-$4
- Cafe lunch for two $30
- Glass of wine at a restaurant $8
- Bottle of wine at a restaurant $30
- Schooner of beer at a restaurant $8
- Schooner of beer at a pub or club $5
- Glass of wine at a pub or club $5
- Bottle of wine at a pub or club $25
- Bottle of wine from a bottle shop $7 to $19
- Six pack of beer from a bottle shop $15
- Loaf of bread at supermarket $2
- Litre of milk at a supermarket $2
- Kilo of sausages at a supermarket $10
- Kilo of lamb chops at a supermarket $15
- An average trolley of mixed groceries, including meat and vegetables for two people for five days $140
Entry into Attractions
This is one area which is going to vary greatly, depending on your travel plans. However I’ve listed the cost of some common attractions to give you an idea of costs.
Money saving tip: Most cities and larger regional towns offer a discount pass to multiple attractions, which can save money on entry fees
- National park entry fees $8 -$12 annual pass NSW, SA, WA
- Tasmania $24
- NT $25 – $40 per adult
- Victoria and Queensland are free
Cost of camping in National Parks is not included in these prices and will vary depending upon location. If you are planning on visiting a number of National Parks, take advantage of a “multi-pass”.
- Zoo Entry $36 adults, $19 children or $91.50 for a family
- Morning fishing charter $160 pp
- Three hour whale watching tour $70 pp
- Half day Fishing boat hire $155
- Museum Entry. Most major city museums and art galleries are free.
- In smaller private museums you can expect to pay around $10
- Theme park entry. Once again, this will vary from around $45 per person at a smaller theme park, to $99 per person, $320 per family at the Gold Coast’s Dreamworld
- Movie tickets (small cinema) Adults $15.50 children $13
- Fairy Penguins, Phillip Island Vic $26
- Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb $235 pp
Organised tours are one area in which you will need to research based upon your budget. These can range from a $45 per person half day city tour, to several thousands for a multi day all inclusive package.
It isn’t necessary to completely blow the budget when visiting Australia. Yes, it is expensive, but there are many ways in which you can make your travel budget for Australia go further.